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17 Oct
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The Lyons Review roars into the planning debate

We are now just 7 months away from the General Election and so all parties are keen to show how they would reform the planning system. Yesterday the Labour Party started the ball rolling by publishing the Lyons Housing Review. This report sets out a significant number of recommendations which would help build 200,000 new homes by 2020.

Below we provide a breakdown of the key recommendations of the Review:

1. Prevention of land-banking

  • Councils should be given the power to levy a charge on land allocated in a plan regardless of its planning status if it is not brought forward within 5 years.
  • CPO powers should be strengthened and streamlined to make the process more effective
  • The lifespan of planning permission should be reduced from 3 years to 2 years with higher fees to be applied when renewing an expired permission.
  • The definition of commencement of a development should involve more substantive work than is currently the case.

2. Streamlining the planning process

  • As would be expected, the planning process should be streamlined, through the introduction of set timescales on planning authorities to sign off planning conditions and where an authority fails to comply, the introduction of ‘deemed discharge’.
  • ‘Redline’ applications are recommended for site of fewer than 10 units – this would establish the principle of development and require the builder to provide a plan of the site and a short statement justifying the design and addressing any likely impacts. 

3. Housing Growth Areas

  • This initiative would see Local Authorities having the ability to designate areas within which landowners would have to pool or sell their land, or be subject to the changed CPO powers.

4. Brownfield First Policy

  • It is recommended that the principle of brownfield first is the right approach, consequently, the NPPF should be updated to establish a Brownfield First policy with sequential tests being applied to development.

5. Viability

  • Clearer guidance on defining viability should be provided, as this would reduce the number of different interpretations which currently exist, causing confusion and delays.

Many of the recommendations of the review would see big changes to the planning system if implemented. Clearly the desire of a political party to streamline the planning process and make it easier and quicker to obtain planning permissions for residential developments can only been seen as a positive change. However, whether or not the recommendations would all be carried forward and how they would work in practice is a whole other matter. Significant changes to the planning system are often made, not always with the best outcomes.

Over the next 7 months, in the lead up to the general election, it remains to be seen if other parties follow suit and how their recommendations for the planning process may differ.

If you would like to discuss the potential implications of the Lyons Review or any other changes in the planning system please get in touch.  

Images used courtesy of Paul on Flickr and leblancvalleyrealestate.com

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